behaviour Archives - Education Matters Magazine
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Mindset and behaviour

Leadership and engagement expert, Dan Haesler, discusses how a person’s mindset plays a role in everything they do, and highlights the differences between the fixed mindset and growth mindset. He also discusses how making subtle changes in behaviour can impact the way we think.

Software to protect students Fi Bendall

Is banning smartphone use the right solution?

Student smartphone use needs to be controlled, but a blanket ban is not the best solution, warns Garry Falloon, Professor of Digital Learning at Macquarie University; following news of the NSW review into smartphone use in schools.

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Thumb-sucking research from NZ

NZ researchers find nail-biting, thumb-sucking behaviour reduces allergy risk

A new study from the University of Otago, New Zealand, found kids who exhibit thumb-sucking or nail-biting behaviours could be less at risk of developing allergies later in life.

The findings are just one result from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study, a long-running data collection exercise that has followed the lives of 1,037 participants born in 1972 and 1973.

The paper, which appears in the August issue of the US-based journal, Pediatrics, suggests childhood exposure to microbial organisms via thumb-sucking and nail-biting could reduce the risk of developing allergies.

Parents of the participating children were asked to report their thumb-sucking and nail-biting behaviour at ages 5, 7, 9, and 11 years of age. Each of the participants was then checked at page 13 and 32 years old for ‘atopic sensitisation’, which is a positive result on a skin prick test to at least one common allergen.

Results show that the prevalence of sensitisation was lower among children who had sucked their thumbs or bit their nails by 38 percent, compared to those who didn’t at 49 percent. Children who were reported to both suck their thumbs and bite nails had an even lower risk of allergy at 31 percent.

Lead author of the study, Professor Bob Hancox said the exposure to microbes as a result of these behaviours may alter immune functions, resulting in the children becoming less prone to allergy.

“The findings support the “hygiene hypothesis”, which suggests that being exposed to microbes as a child reduces your risk of developing allergies,” he says.

At the same time, Professor Hancox and the other co-authors of the report stress that their findings aren’t grounds for encouraging children to acquire these habits, as it’s not clear as to the net health benefits of such behaviour.

Stephanie Lynch, a medical student who co-authored the study as a summer project, says “although thumb-suckers and nail-biters had fewer allergies on skin testing, we found no difference in their risk for developing allergic diseases such as asthma or hay fever”.

Sleeping baby

Study shows self-soothers make solid students

Researchers have discovered strong evidence to suggest that children who develop good sleep behaviour before the age of five are more likely to settle in at school.

The study, entitled Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), was undertaken by Dr Kate Williams of Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Faculty of Education. The study incorporates a sample of 2,880 children.

The findings reveal that one in three children have increasing issues with sleep from birth to the age of five, which heightens the risk of emotional and behavioural issues at school, as well as putting the at risk of attention deficit disorders.

Dr Williams highlights the fact that “it’s vital to get children’s sleep behaviours right by the time they turn five”.

“We now know 70 per cent of children are regulating their own sleep by five years but for the remaining third it may be detrimental to them developmentally over time.”

Analysing the sleep behaviour of children born in 2004 until the age of six or seven, Dr Williams asked motheers to report on any sleep, emotional and attention problems, while teachers were asked to report on social-emotional adjustment in the school environment.

The research is therefore unique in its scope and sample size examined.

The results found that children found to have escalating sleep problems in early childhood were more like to have teacher-reported hyperactivity, poorer classroom self-regulation and emotional outbursts.

According to Dr Williams, more than 85 per vcent of families use a child care or preschool service, which represents an opportunity to create better awareness about good sleep behaviour before children start school.

“Parents can withdraw some habits, like lying with children over and over, letting them into their bed, it’s really important to give children a sense of skill so they can do these things themselves,” she said.

The findings build on prior QUT research that linked mandatory daytime naps in child care centres to sleep problems later on.